Fragment V

Another taste of the story I’m writing…


The call came in the middle of the night.

She woke with a start, her mind still in that foggy place between sleep and wakefulness. She could not tell if she had been dreaming. This was good; lately her dreamlife was made of memories of rot, of bodies beaten and broken and screaming for help, accusatory eyes staring holes into her soul…

She sat up and dug around the couch cushions for her cell phone. When she found it and saw the display, she cursed loudly.

2:30 a.m.

Her mother was calling. She let the phone ring and ring, wishing like hell the bottle on the coffee table was full and not pathetically empty. In the darkness, she moved from the tiny living room to the tinier kitchen. She set the phone on the counter just as it stopped ringing.

She counted, one, two, three, four, and yanked open the freezer. The pretty bottle of vodka nestled between the ice tray and bags of frozen veggies was supposed to be for special occasions. Or so she told herself.

She didn’t bother with a glass. She unscrewed the cap and on the third burning gulp when her cell phone rang again, she almost felt prepared to answer.

Only when half the bottle was gone did she finally pick up.

“Hi, mom.”

“My God! Finally! I’ve been calling you for almost -”

“- an hour. I know.”

“You’ve been ignoring me.”

“Been trying to.”

“Are you drunk? What’s wrong with you?”

“I’m fine.”

“Don’t lie to me. You’re an awful goddamned liar and I can’t deal with your shit right now.”

“Right, mom. Sorry. It’s all about you; I forgot. Spit out whatever you have to say so I can hang up and we can go back to our merry little lives.”

Silence.

She thought her mother had ended the call but then, quietly: “Your gran died. The funeral is in two days. Show up, or don’t. At least you can’t say you didn’t know.”

She pulled the phone away from her ear and clicked the small red ‘end call’ button. She brought the bottle of vodka back to the couch with her and stuck her cell phone back into the cushions.

Her mother’s words were crushing. So she took a deep, shaky breath and then took another drink. And another.

Soon she was floating; there was a blissful nothingness here, a numbness where her brain did not fret about the future or agonize over the past.

Sleep took her with a quickness typically reserved for the dead.

Fragment IV

A cool breeze flutters the curtain. The midafternoon sky has turned dark; thunder rumbles in the distance. This is his brother’s time. But the brother is dead.

Lightning crashes and Summanus appears at the front door.

I wait on the other side. My hand hesitates. Around all others, I am easily able to disguise my feelings and thoughts. I cannot hide anything from Summanus; he sees into my mind. He watches the machinations tick and whirl.

Or, at least, he used to.

I open the door. Summanus has his fist lifted to knock again; his dark eyes meet mine and he unfurls his fist. He cups my cheek gently, stroking his thumb along my cheekbone.

The tenderness is entirely unexpected. The god of night lightning has never been known for being affectionate.

“You’ve sent your minions away, Euryale. You did not wish for them to hear you come undone beneath me, hmm?”

I recoil instantly. “Shay and Thira had business to attend to on my behalf. Exactly what business is none of yours, so please do not ask.”

Summanus raises a dark brown eyebrow and lets his hand fall. “Invite me in, my love. Lest I stand in this wretched rain forever and catch a chill. You wouldn’t want that, now, would you?”

I roll my eyes. The rain has not touched his human vessel. I stand aside and let him enter. He kicks off his boots an I close and lock the door. The magickal wards will be ineffective while he is here.

A chance I take only when a god visits, I assure you.

Fragment III

“He left me to rot; to die alone in misery; heartbroken. He crushed me under his boot, cracking me open like the carapace of a brittle spider. I tried to curse him. I did. But the more magic I used, the weaker I became. It would have been easier – still it would be easy – just to die. But purpose has kept me here in this wretched world. She came to me. Enveloped me. I was reborn in the darkness. I am alive in the night. Blood keeps me and sustains me. In my loneliness I succumbed. I created others. They left me, as well. I cling so hard, squeeze so hard; I suffocate, truly.

Yet I endure. For Thira. For you.”

Fragments II

“I’ve got a lead.”

She scrubs a hand across her face. She is paler than usual, and I can tell she has lost weight. The dark smudges beneath her blue eyes cannot be hidden with make-up.

“You have had leads before.”

She glances away, flinching a little at my tone. I should be nicer; she has not slept well in a very long time.

I have not slept well in longer.

“Yeah, well, this is real. Not some kid playing pretend like last time. I made sure. Before I came here.” Now she holds my gaze and I see a glimmer of the old Lindy Crow, the indomitable force of nature that slit my throat with no hesitation ten years ago.

I nod, thoughtful. I believe her. “Would you like a drink?”

I do not bother to hide my smile when I see the fear flit across her features. “Of what?” she asks. Trying to sound casual.

Standing, I smooth imaginary wrinkles from my silk gown. Her eyes stay on my hands. The thin black robe I pulled on earlier has fallen open. I tap a crystal tumbler with my fingernail and she breaks from her reverie. “I’m having vodka, darling. Shall I mix you a double?”

“No. Uh, no thank you.”

“Nothing at all, then? Are you sure?”

The crystal catches the lamplight and sparkles. Lindy watches me pour myself a drink with naked want. She wets her lips and replies, “Water. Just water.”

Full glass in hand, I move from the silver service cart to my desk, a carved mahogany monstrosity that I refuse to part with. I buzz the kitchen downstairs where I know Shay is camped out in front of her laptop. “Please bring our guest a bottle of water. The door is open.”

Lindy says, “I have photos.” She reaches into her cross-body bag and fishes out a white folder covered in smeared fingerprints and ink doodles. She places the folder in the middle of the low, oval table between us. The table’s silver and pearl inlays also sparkle in the light. Once Lindy had marveled at the opulence of this room, jokingly calling it the queen’s receiving chamber.  The thick white carpets, the opalescent touches, the silver candelabra, the gentle scent of roses, all give the room a royal air. The French doors leading to the master bedroom are ajar. Lindy cannot help but glance into the darkness beyond.

I take the folder and remove the photos. I parse through the stack slowly. Some are grainy images taken from a security camera. Others are blurred shots from a cell phone camera. I hold onto the clearest image and let the rest fall to the table.

There she is, my pet. Caught under a streetlight at dusk. A knit cap is pulled over her blonde hair, and the collar of her navy blue trenchcoat is flipped up. She has watched too many silly spy movies. There is a nondescript stocky looking fellow standing next to her.

“Who is this man?”

“I don’t know yet. But – see that, on the back of his hand? I know that symbol. I know where to find him.” …